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Professor begins search for “board” minds

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye


A new course allows students to create a board game from scratch.

On Feb. 27, Oklahoma Christian University will offer Game Theory and Design, under course title, CLTR 1801, taught by Professor Pat Smith. 

“The reason why I feel a need to teach this course is because there are lots of uses for games,” Smith said. “People think of games as simply a recreational activity, and that is true because that is primarily what games are for. There’s a large industry out there.” 

Professor Smith offers this course based on his own personal experience with the real world and how board games helped him as an engineer. 

“My company sent me on a three-day seminar, and we played a game,” Smith said. “The game was a group competition, and each one of us started our own business, and we had to run our businesses so that each one of us had the most money at the end of the three days.” 

During those three days, Smith and his colleagues learned that the decisions they made impacted the shared market they had, but through explanations from their advisors, they also learned basic financing and marketing skills.

“That was over ten years ago, but I can still tell you some of the things I learned from playing those games,” Smith said. “A lot of money is spent on games, so if you can create good games and produce them, there’s a chance that you can turn them into an economical activity for yourself.” 

Learning about simple game techniques helped Professor Smith and has motivated him to help Oklahoma Christian students prepare for the competitive world. 

“They sent an engineer to learn about business stuff so that I could better learn what was happening with my customers,” Smith said. “Sometimes people design games strictly in order to draw someone into an activity and to learn about that activity by playing a game that stimulates that activity.” 

Before students can enroll in the course, they are required to talk with Smith personally to get his approval. 

“We really need people who are truly interested in the topic to take the course because everyone has to build their own games,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that before students take the course that they are motivated.” 

Students taking the course will learn game design and principles and decide what really makes a game fun and successful. Timothy Sikes, senior computer-engineering major, has decided to take the class. 

“I hope to learn a little bit how games work their design and mechanics,” Sikes said. “There’s a lot of probability in games and figuring out how to use these probabilities to make something that you can compete with each other.” 

At the end of the semester, students get to design their own games. 

“The students choose their own board games,” Smith said. “I have no idea what they are going to do. In the past years I had a student design a corporate game where everyone at the table had to work together to create a story about a murder mystery and then solve it. It was fascinating.” 

Students are then required to critique and play each other’s games to see if they work and if there is anything about the game that could be improved. 

“One of the most important things that you can do after you finish your game is get other people to play your game and have them give you formal feedback so that you can modify your game and to make it more engaging,” Smith said. 

 No games are released today without having people test them first to make sure that they are going to work the way they are supposed to. 

“The final project is designing our own board games,” Sikes said. “I expect to learn about game strategy and having a knowledge how these games are put together.” 

One of the aspects of game design the students in the class will cover is game mechanism, which will give students a glimpse into some of the basic principles of what makes certain games great and fun to play. 

“I hope to learn a little bit how games work their design and mechanics,” Sikes said. “There’s a lot of probability in games and figuring out how to use these probabilities to make something that you can compete with each other.” 

Senior David Sellers is one of the ten students that have signed up for the class. Sellers decided to take the course after seeing some of his friends sign up and is thrilled that Oklahoma Christian is offering the course. 

“I am interested in learning what makes a fun board game so fun,” Sellers said. “I am happy that the school is offering this class. It’s a really cool thing; it’s something that you don’t get at every school. I think it’s a really cool opportunity, and I am really excited about it.” 

Professor Smith has the course maxed at 25 students. For students interested in taking this course, classes begin Feb. 27, on Mondays from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. No additional fees are required unless a student passes the 17-hour credit limit.

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